I’m A Bad Communicator. You’re Fired.

It’s amazing to me that two grown adults can go into a meeting, hear the same person speak, and leave with two completely different opinions of what just happened. Perception is reality, right?

I was recently working with Phil, a manager at a software company, who was having a lot of problems with a direct report. By the time I came into the situation Phil was completely frustrated with Jim Bob because his work wasn’t up to par. Phil swore up and down that he’d told Jim Bob over and over what he needed to be doing but that he continued to fail to get it done. He had completely given up on Jim Bob and wanted to fire him but before he could do that I was called in to ensure that the proper steps had been taken and documented.

Of course, my next step was to meet with Jim Bob who, when questioned about how he thought he was doing at work, replied “great”. I dug into previous conversations that Phil had told me about and Jim Bob repeated that he’d received good feedback about his performance. The disconnect between this boss and his direct report was staggering.

Not only was Jim Bob not at all expecting a termination in his future but he didn’t even realize he was having performance issues.

Never fire an employee unless they can clearly articulate the top two reasons they are being let go. Is this a law? No, it’s just good practice.

I ended up mediating a meeting between Phil and Jim Bob where we talked about three specific areas that Phil needed to see improvement. We wrote very clear and specific goals that Jim Bob had to meet, and set timelines for when they had to be met by.

Guess what? Jim Bob met all the goals. And when he and Phil had their next meeting and set another set of clear goals he met those as well. It turns out that a very big part of the problem was that Phil wasn’t being honest enough with Jim Bob about what the expectations of his job were. Jim Bob was off doing other work that he thought was adding value but he was off the mark. When Phil had been ‘having tough conversations’ with Jim Bob he wasn’t being direct or honest enough which led Jim Bob to believe he was doing pretty well.

The moral of the story, before you jump to firing someone ask yourself if you’ve really had the tough conversation with them or if you just think you did.

Marisa is a leadership coach, management trainer, and motivational speaker on all things Culture and Engagement.  She has helped lead the culture and engagement initiatives at two nationally recognized great places to work; Rackspace as Culture Maven and Modea as Talent Manger. Today Marisa consults, coaches, and leads seminars for organizations looking to increase productivity by focusing on management training and employee engagement.



About Marisa

Marisa Keegan is a leadership coach, trainer, and HR consultant for quickly growing organizations who are passionate about strengthening their employees, their brand, and their culture. She has helped lead the HR, culture, and engagement initiatives at two nationally recognized great places to work; Rackspace as Culture Maven and Modea as Talent Manger. She is an author at Fistful of Talent and Culture Fanatics. Marisa has her Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology and currently lives with her husband and twin boys in Richmond, Virginia.
This entry was posted in A Rant For The Sake of Ranting, Marisa Keegan. Bookmark the permalink.

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